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Color as a vital interface element

Principle: Do not avoid color in the interface just because not every user can see every color.

Color is a vital dimension of our limited communication abilities. Stripping away colors that a person who is color blind can’t see does no more for that person than turning off the entire picture does for a person who is completely without sight. It’s the presence of an alternate set of cues for that person that is important.

Principle: Do not strip away or overwhelm color cues in the interface because of a passing graphic-design fad.

Generating artificial obsolescence through fashion is a time-honoured and effective way to move products from clothing to cars. A new fashion should not and need not, however, detract from user-performance. User test after making aesthetic changes, benchmarking the new design against the old. Ensure that learnability, satisfaction, and productivity have improved or at least stayed the same. If not, newly added aesthetics that are causing a problem need to be rethought.

Color blindness

Principle: Any time you use color to convey information in the interface, you should also use clear, secondary cues to convey the information to those who cannot see the colors presented.

Most people have color displays nowadays. However, approximately 10% of human males, along with fewer than 1% of females, have some form of color blindness.

Principle: Test your site to see what color-blind individuals see

Search Google for simulation tools. For example, for websites, you might try For images,

Further reading

Color Theory in Web UI Design - from